Struggling for change : provision for the professional development of foreign language teachers of young learners in Bydgoszcz, Poland
Due to economic and political changes in Poland the market for educational services has changed. A worldwide trend for an early start in foreign language (FL) instruction is reflected in the accelerated growth of numbers of younger children enrolled into various forms of FL learning in Poland. Recent changes in the new National Curriculum introduced the possibility of starting FL learning from the first grade of the elementary school. However, it seems that teacher training has not yet responded to the growing demand for qualified FL teachers of young learners (FLTYL). This study presents the results of an evaluation of how the present TT provision meets the educational needs of teachers involved in teaching FL to young children and what changes should be made in order to address those needs in a better way. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used to elicit information from different perspectives: current FLTYLs, prospective Early Years (EY) and FL teachers, and academic staff from the Higher Pedagogical School of Bydgoszcz, one of the institutions providing teacher training in Poland. Moreover, the findings were supported with the results of the surveys among the elementary and language school head teachers and parents of children from grades 1-3, which assessed the current and future needs in the area of FL teaching to young children. The research findings suggest that the present TT is flawed in at least two aspects. First of all, it seems not to recognise how widespread early FL instruction has become and consequently fails to respond to a growing demand for a higher number of qualified FLTYLs. Secondly, neither FL teacher training nor Early Years Education teacher training appears to equip the teachers with the necessary competencies and qualifications. The two basic problems of acceptance and implementation of a new FLTYL training programme, or modifying the existing provision, are shortage of qualified teacher trainers and insufficient cooperation between the departments that traditionally work separately. As a result, arriving at a common policy regarding optimal FLTYL qualifications and competencies, course organisation, its content, and training methods to be used, is problematic. The study offers some solutions as to how the existing impasse might be overcome.